Names are significant. My dad taught me this from an early age with his many nicknames for his girls. As I got older, the distinction between my dad calling me “Kate” and “Katie” was unmistakable. Kate was used in the easy-going, “just called to say hi,” conversations. But when he said, “Katie,” it was almost always with a stern voice and a weighty disposition. Nowadays, my name has evolved from the endearing, “Mommy,” to the annoyed, “Mother!” sometimes accompanied by a teenage eye roll.
Names mean something, and we see this most clearly in the many names of God. The Bible provides hundreds of names for God, each holding deep significance for all who call on him. As parents seeking to point our children toward this loving God, there is much encouragement in his varying names. Each name tells us something different about his unique character.
Four of these names are particularly helpful to embrace in the changing, and often challenging, seasons of parenthood: Abba, El Roi, Jevova-Jireh, and El Shaddai.
While we might not be too shocked to read that Jesus refers to God as “Abba” in Mark 14:36, Jewish leaders of the time would have considered this scandalous. The term is a familial one, so for Jesus to call a mighty and holy God his “dad” was unheard of. Remarkably, in the book of Romans, Paul reminds believers that in Christ we too can relate to God with this very intimate, familial language (Rom. 8:15).
My dad was a pastor, and often following a service, congregants waited to speak with him. But as a child, the line was never a hinderance when I needed my dad. I’d run down the aisle calling his name, and he’d turn and respond with his arms outstretched. This, friends, is the kind of unlimited access you have to your Father. When you call out, “Abba!,” he is there with his arms wide open.
There are times in our parenting when knowing God as our Abba brings the kind of comfort and peace that can only come from a loving Father’s embrace. Nothing hinders you from calling out to your Abba when you are unsure of how to handle a tough situation, when you are hurt by a child’s actions, or when you are anxious about your child’s future. When your parenting days seem tumultuous, remember that you are secure in the embrace of your Father, and you have unhindered access to him. Call out to your Abba with the ease and confidence of a little child running after their Dad.
Hagar, an Egyptian slave, met God in the desert after she and her son had been cast out by her master, Abraham. When Hagar met God, she addressed him as “El Roi,” which means, “The God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13-14). Oh, what comfort she must have found in being seen by God when everyone else dismissed her as an outcast. When Hagar felt invisible and cast aside, Jesus knew all about her and met her every need.
Most parents have experienced loneliness in some form or another. Some feel lonely because they fear judgement because of a child who has walked away from God or who struggles with their sexuality. Others experience the loneliness that accompanies single parenting or parenting with a partner who does not share the same faith. El Roi sees you. You are never alone in the joys and sorrows of your parenting journey. No one knows you better, and no one loves you more than your Savior who is always in your midst.
One of the most heart-wrenching stories in the Bible occurs when God instructs Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, and sacrifice him on a mountain (Gen. 22:2). After God stops Abraham from this horrific act at the last moment, he immediately provides a ram caught in a thicket as a substitute. Abraham names the place, “Jehovah-Jireh:” the Lord will provide.
Reading this encounter superficially, God may seem uncaring. And yet, that is not what Abraham expresses about the God he encounters on that mountain. When Abraham calls him Jehovah-Jireh, he is expressing with utter trust and gratitude that God will remain true to his promises in providing all that his children need.
Those provisions come in the exact ways God knows we will need them at the exact times he knows they will be necessary. Sometimes the provisions come in assurances from Scripture such as the promise that God is sovereign over all things, including the salvation of your child. Other times, the provisions come in tangible expressions of his love and care: wisdom in a conversation with a teen, courage to suggest doing a Bible study with a child who is closed off, or strength to care for a child with ongoing emotional or physical needs.
Call out to the One who is your Provider for every parenting need you have or will have. Jehovah-Jireh will surely provide in his perfect time, in his perfect way.
The Hebrew word for God Almighty is “El Shaddai.” We see this in Genesis 17 when the Lord appears to Abram saying, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you and may multiply you greatly” (Gen. 17:1). God, in essence, reminds Abram that he is the all-powerful, all-sufficient, omnipotent God who is almighty. Nothing is impossible for El Shaddai.
With reverence, this name should inspire humility knowing that nothing can thwart God’s sovereign purposes. As parents, this characteristic of God provides so much freedom. He is perfectly and lovingly sovereign over every detail of you and your child’s life. Your mistakes cannot hinder God’s plan. He will use the missteps as well as your obedience to work in the life of his children.
With total security, parents can find refuge in El Shaddai. Psalm 91:1-2 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”
We can trust in God’s ways even when we don’t understand them. He is our place of safety when the world sends confusing and contradictory messages about how we are “supposed” to parent. You are protected in God’s never-ending refuge because of the almightiness of God.
Call on Jesus today. He is more infinite and more majestic than we will ever begin to comprehend. Search his Word for the other names that shed beautiful light on God’s character and nature. Knowing these names enhances our worship, strengthens our feeble trust, and reveals to us more about the God who leads us as we lead our children.
Interested in hearing more from Katie Polski? She’ll be a featured speaker at our Rooted 2023 Conference in Nashville, TN. We hope you’ll join us Nov 2-4!